In re Q.M., ___ N.C. App. ___ (Dec. 15, 2020)

Held: 
Reversed and Remanded
  • Facts: At the time the juvenile was born, the mother was a ward of a county DSS due to her incompetency. DSS filed a petition alleging dependency and named the putative father. Mother was appointed a Rule 17 GAL. After a paternity test, a hearing to establish the putative father’s paternity was held, but an order was not entered until months later. Prior to the adjudicatory hearing, DSS had nonsecure custody and the juvenile was placed in foster care. The child was adjudicated dependent, and a dispositional order continued custody with DSS and placement with the child’s father. No visitation was ordered with mother. Mother appeals.
  • When determining whether a juvenile is dependent, G.S. 7B-101(9) requires the court to address both parents (1) ability to provide proper care and supervision and (2) the availability of alternative child care arrangements. Citing In re V.B., although post-petition evidence is generally not admissible in an adjudicatory hearing, post-petition evidence of paternity is a fixed and ongoing circumstance the court may consider. “Respondent-Mother’s inability to care for [the juvenile] on her own does not create a sufficient basis to adjudicate [the juvenile] dependent where Respondent-Father was known to DSS and, in fact, spoke with [the juvenile’s] social worker in direct contemplation of caring for [the juvenile]. Sl.Op. at 14. The findings do not address the second prong – the availability of alternative child care arrangements – remanded to make proper findings supported by clear and convincing evidence and to re-evaluate whether the juvenile is dependent.
Category:
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Stage:
Adjudication
Topic:
Dependency
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